3.08.2010

Scoop: Burlington Telecom in the news again

At the risk of sounding like a tired, middle-aged, Glen Beck-watching crank, I return once more to this worn subject.

So, Seven Days made the Burlington Telecom situation the cover story last week, an in-depth, well-sourced expose that covers much of the ins and outs of the situation engulfing Burlington and its ill-starred and grossly mismanaged municipal telecommunications utility. WCAX also produced a story that contained some analysis why things are happening, as opposed to just reporting the facts ($50M in debt, default looming, credit rating downgrades, etc.).

As usual, however, I've been walking a lonely road with this mostly unread and extremely uninfluential blog, living and writing on the bleeding edge, far ahead of the curve, prescient and yet ignored.... these stories reach conclusions similar to what I've been saying here all along: Burlington Telecom is a poorly implemented example of a disastrously bad idea.

In an attempt to escape from this swampy mire of negativity, I now offer my attempt to make a positive contribution to the well-being of the citizens of Burlington.

Here's a small thought-experiment: If I had $50M to spend on making Burlington a better place, here's a smorgasbord of options that don't involve building a city-wide fiber optic network:
  1. Get rid of any other (non-Burlington Telecom related) hidden financial time bombs lurking on the city's books (ie, pension shortfalls), and offer property tax relief to homeowners. In this era of doing less with less, this would contribute to making Burlington an isle of prosperity in a rising sea of despond. Seriously.
  2. Fix crumbling physical infrastructure.
  3. Start a health care cooperative to make it easier for small businesses to offer benefits to employees.
  4. Set up a homestead program so that more of the thousands of college students educated in the area stick around post-graduation.
  5. Develop programs to better integrate the city's varied immigrant communities into the greater social and economic fabric of the community.
What I wouldn't do, is engage in a long-running, futile, catastrophically expensive attempt to compete in a rapidly evolving technology business with established commercial providers.

And, I wouldn't let Messrs. Nulty, Burns, Kiss & Leopold anywhere near the money, given their track record to date. This scenario isn't likely to happen (I don't play Powerball, or work with exotic financial instruments -- if I did, I'd be busy shorting US government debt) but this is almost my last word on the subject.

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